Vivian Cheruiyot of Kenya on her way to winning gold in the 10,000m final (© Getty Images)
Kenya’s women ended day one of the World Championships just as they had started it, Vivian Cheruiyot leading a clean sweep of the medals in the 10,000m just as Edna Kiplagat had done in the Marathon.
Indeed, the track distance women went one better. As Linet Masai was defending champion, Kenya had four starts in the 10,000m and they finished 1-2-3-4, matching the feat of Ethiopia in the women’s 5000m and the USA in the men’s 200, both at Helsinki 2005.
Cheruiyot is the defending champion in the 5000m, so she has a great chance to do the double in Daegu. Kenya could likewise go 1-2-3-4 all over again. She has had a wonderful year, starting with her victory in the World Cross-Country in Punta Umbria, Spain, and now perhaps heading to a marvellous climax in Daegu.
The new champion made her debut at 10,000m a week after the World Cross-Country and qualified for the Kenyan team by winning the national championship (Masai ran the 5000). In winning the world 10,000m in here debut year at the event she has matched 2005 and 2007 gold medallist Tirunesh Dibaba who performed the same feat in 2005.
Sally Kipyego, another Kenyan revelation this year after a long US collegiate career, took the race up to her better-credentialed teammate over the closing stages, but Cheruiyot had the closing speed. A 61-second final lap took her to a 30:48.98 victory, with Kipyego almost 10 metres behind in 30:50.04.
Masai, who at one stage looked as if she might finish fifth, rallied to take the bronze medal in 30:53.59 with Priscah Cherono fourth in 30:56.43.
Ethiopia’s Meselech Melkamu, always a contender but never a senior winner in the big races, finished fifth in 30:56.55. Masai had exchanged words with her during the race when the Ethiopian got too close.
Melkamu was less than a step behind Cherono, taking fifth in 30:56.55.
Beijing 2008 bronze medallist Shalane Flanagan of USA was the first non-African finisher in seventh place, one ahead of Portugal’s Ana Dulce Felix.
Indeed, for the first lap or two we were treated to a wondrous sight as Flanagan and her US teammates Jennifer Rhines and Osaka 2007 bronze medallist Kara Goucher ran in a line in the lead in a manner usually seen by African distance runners.
It was not to last, of course. At that stage, Masai was dead last in the field of 18, Cheruiyot a few places in front of her and Defar, who perhaps did not know which Kenyan to shadow, stuck uncomfortably in between.
The race took on its final complexion just past the 3000 metres point when Masai ran around the field to take the lead. With her languid stride eating up the ground, got progressively faster, bringing the pace down from 75-76 per lap to 73-74. The first 5000 was covered in 15:47.04 (the second in 15:01.94).
From that point on it was basically all Kenya. Melkamu and Defar hung on until Defar dropped off approaching 8000 metres and out of the race a little later.
Flanagan and Bahrain’s Shitaye Eshete (who finished sixth) were dropped by a 71.59 18th lap – fastest of the race to that point – led by Masai.
From that point on, it was merely a matter of which Kenyan would miss out on a medal though Melkamu’s brave fight meant they had to run hard all the way to the finish.
On day one in Daegu, making the Kenyan women run hard all the way to the finish was the only small victory for the rest of the world.
Len Johnson for the IAAF